Yesterday started off pretty crummy. I’m a firm proponent that one should take one’s birthday off but you know, life gets in the way sometimes. Anyone who’s talked to me knows how impossible my work schedule has been lately (15-16 hour days, weekends working, travel, etc.). From the second I walked in the door yesterday, I was running from one thing to the next, putting out fires left and right. I did the best I could given the circumstances. I worked as hard as I could and I kept my fingers crossed that I’d make it to the epic dinner I had planned for the evening. Lately, I’ve had a strong hankering for all things seafood, in particular shellfish. When a coworker (also friend and favorite cranky dining companion) offered to take me to dinner, I knew I had to revisit the Publican. I’d been here once before, shortly after moving to Chicago, enjoyed the food and atmosphere, but hadn’t really tried any of the things this place is particularly known for–oysters, pork, and beer. This of course had to be remedied (although we ended up crossing things off the list backwards).
Most of the seating here is communal (and a bit cramped for my tastes) so we opted to wait for a table while grabbing a drink at the bar. We split a festive bottle of Brasserie Dupont sprl (Tourpes-Leuze, Belgium). Beer. Check.
Then, pork. Check. We couldn’t pass up on the spicy pork rinds. Afterall, they were cited by Chef Michael Symon as the best fried thing he’s ever eaten. I’m happy to report that they did not disappoint.
Finally, oysters. Check. Four kinds: hama hama (Hood Canal, Washington), kumamoto (Humboldt Bay, Cailfornia), island creek (Duxbury, Massachusetts), wellfleet (Cape Cod, Massachusetts). All amazing but the hama hama was my favorite. I was super duper excited about this one.
The food that followed after was equally amazing and delicious–bouchot mussels (from Stonington, Maine) with gueze, bay, celery, butter, & garlic with a tall stack of garlic peasant bread; sweetbreads (from Franklin, Wisconsin) with rapini & tapenade; and brussels sprouts with sesame vinaigrette & peanuts. My only gripe was the pacing. Food took damn near an eternity to reach us and service was virtually non-existent. (Dinner start to finish took THREE HOURS.)
On the server’s recommendation, we wrapped up the meal with a crostada with quince, housemade farmer’s cheese & pistachios. I wished for a better year, blew out my candle, and dug in. Buttery, rich, and delicious. An extravagant way to end an extravagant meal.
So yeah, the service and stuff sucked but I have a feeling I’ll be back here again someday. The food here is really incredible; it has just the sort of menu that I really adore. Tonight I fly to Los Angeles to see two of my favorite people on the planet. This mini vacation could not have come at a better time. I couldn’t be happier. I was too swamped to schedule posts to pop up in my absence so you’ll have to excuse me from my November NaBloPoMo duties until I return on Monday. I’m sure I’ll have lots of food tales and pictures to share. Until then, happy weekend!
The Publican: 837 West Fulton Market